What Is Love?

What is Love?
Shash Wighton
|6 mins read

What is “love”? For such a small word, it sure has a deep-rooted connection with almost everything across the world.

You can fall in love with someone, you can do something in the name of love, and you can even love to hate something.

It’s not only an incredibly versatile word, but a pretty flexible concept too!

What exactly is love though? And why does everyone go mad about it?

Science explains it for us in a typically unromantic fashion: We feel the emotion of love when certain hormones are released throughout our body, and when certain regions of the brain such as the hippocampus are activated.

Boring, right?

Thankfully for us love has been studied, philosophized, pondered and dwelled upon by hopeless romantics, philosophers, bards, poets, musicians and so on since the dawn of the human race.

The result? Well, we now we at least know that there are many different kinds of love!

In fact, ancient Greek philosophers studied the subject and determined that there are 6 different forms of love.

Agápe – The highest form of love.

Agápe – The highest form of love.

Agápe is considered to be the highest of all forms of love. It has a number of different ways in which it can be interpreted though.

The word first came into use as a verb in the time of the legendary Greek author Homer, who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey around the 7th Century BC.

The meaning of agápe at the time was closer to affection, for example to greet someone with affection.

The word evolved throughout time though, and is much more closely related to divine love, due to its usage throughout various translations of the Bible.

In such cases, agápe means God’s love for mankind, and the love that mankind holds for God.

Éros – The love of romance.

Éros

Éros is such a highly regarded and important form of love that even the Greek god of love was named after it.

Keeping with the trend, in the word for “intimate love” in Modern Greek is “Erotas”, and this isn’t a mistake – Éros is the closest thing to what we would call romantic love today.

This form of love normally ranges from thoughts, desires and actions generally restricted to the bedroom, or dating. But it’s more than that.

It’s also the love found in marriage, the type of love one has for their other half.

In fact, Plato believed it to be more the former than the latter, as he saw it without physical bounds or attraction, and thus platonic.

Philia – Brotherly love, or the love between friends.

Philia – Brotherly love, or the love between friends.

One of the most common forms of love that we experience on a day-to-day basis is philia, or the love shared between friends.

This form of love was first defined by the Greek philosopher Aristotle as the love that is shared between friends, particularly in three specific types of friendships.

The first type of friendship is that which is based on utility, or usefulness.

This form of philia consists of relationships or interactions between people in very shallow circumstances, such as buying something from someone.

In modern times we probably wouldn’t refer to this kind of relationship as a friendship, though, more like an acquaintance.

The second form of philia is much closer to what we would expect of it – it’s entirely to do with taking pleasure in the company of others.

This could be having a drink together, sharing experiences through a mutual hobby, or simply anything which involves doing something pleasurable with another person.

The final form of philia, referred to the highest form, is what we would call the love shared between brothers, and true friends.

It’s the type of philia where you enjoy not just each other’s company, but each other’s character too.

It’s where you genuinely like the other person, not just because they’re fun to be around.

Storge – The love shared between family.

Storge – The love shared between family.

Storge is a form of love which is said to be the most natural, and is developed as more of an instinct than anything else.

It is the kind of love which a mother feels towards her child even before it’s born, and it can be said to be what holds families together, no matter what the world throws at them.

This form of love is almost exclusively experienced between family members, and can either grow or shrink over time depending on how close company they keep.

One main interpretation of storge which isn’t related to family though can be found amongst the closest of friends.

As a friendship grows, the love is closer to philia.

As friends become closer, though, and start caring for each other in an almost instinctual way, it can develop into storgic love, where your friends feel like family.

Philautia – Self love.

Philautia – Self love.

Philautia was originally likened to the love one holds for oneself, as well as looking after one’s own happiness or well-being.

Funnily enough, this wasn’t always considered to be a highly valued form of love, and in fact was considered to be a moral flaw!

People who practiced philautia were referred to as being vain, selfish, and egotistical.

Throughout time, though, philautia has gained a better reputation and understanding.

Gradually philautia, or self-love, began to grow as a concept that is not only good, but extremely beneficial for your mental health.

The connection between self-love and mental health was first made by a psychologist in 1830, but didn’t take off until the 20th Century.

Nowadays, self-love is considered to be a vitally important thing, and it’s commonly acceptable to take a day off just to look after yourself!

When was the last time you had a self-love day?

Xenia – The love found in hospitality.

Xenia – The love found in hospitality.

This form of love is less a type of love, and more a general guideline to follow in order to be hospitable to all who pass by your home.

It is the love which stems from hospitality, and it is one of the oldest and most deep-rooted forms, found all over the world.

Cultures from opposite ends of the earth all share similarities when it comes to the concept of Xenia.

The shared traits are generally along the same lines, but start with one main principle: you must honor all who cross your threshold, as well as feeding and sheltering them.

An example of this can be found in the many myths and legends from pre-Christian religions across Europe.

In such myths, a deity walks the earth in the form of a human who then travels to different homes testing their hospitality.

The common theme is that if one treats the guest with honor they receive a reward or gift from the deity, and if they don’t they are punished.

Talk about tough love!

 

What we’ve touched on here today is just a drop in the ocean of ways in which we have found to describe the feelings, thoughts and emotions that we define to be love.

Love seems to be ever so intangible, so hard to get a real grasp of, and as such we will probably keep trying to define for the rest of all time.

So what is it? I’d say it was best described by John Lennon and Paul McCartney – “Love is all you need”.

Greek philosophers studied the subject of Love and determined that there are 6 different forms of love.

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